AVON, May 3 — The Avon High track and field team has the opportunity this spring to achieve something they haven’t been able to accomplish in decades – win a league championship.
The boys and girls teams haven’t won a league title since they entered the North Central Connecticut Conference 25 years ago in 1985. It’s been nearly 40 years since the boys won a league championship. That was in 1971 when the Falcons won the Northwest Conference.
(CORRECTION: The Avon boys last won a league title, winning the NCCC in 1994. The Avon girls last won a league title in 1989, winning the NCCC).
The boys and girls teams are undefeated at 5-0 overall and in the NCCC. The girls haven’t really been tested yet this year. About 10 days ago, they swept a pair from Canton 117-28 and Suffield, 85-65. The boys were pressed a little harder but they still came up with a pair of victories with an 86-63 win over Suffield and a close 78-70 victory over Canton.
Both Avon teams had fine performances Saturday at the Blue Devil Invitational at Platt High in Meriden. Three girls and one relay team won events and the Falcons finished second behind East Hampton. On the boys side, there were nine individuals and one relay team that finished in the top six in their respective events.
The track and field teams at Avon have been getting stronger over the past few years. In the past three years, the girls have won 30 dual meets and finished in the top five in the NCCC. The boys have won 31 dual meets and have been getting stronger in the league.
The departure of Tolland to the Central Connecticut Conference opened up everything this year. On the girls side, Tolland had won the last five NCCC titles, winning last year’s title by 131 points. Avon was a distant third. Among the boys, Tolland had won the last NCCC titles and had finished in the top two in seven of the last eight seasons.
Avon coach Al Daddario said this could be the year for his girls squad. “With the senior leadership we have, this could be the year,” he said. “It’s up to them. It’s inside of them. They have the talent. If they want it, they have a shot to do it.”
The Falcons have three returning NCCC champions in senior Titi Vanriel (400 meters), junior Brianna Noonan (high jump) and two-time league champion senior Claire Smith (3,200), who won a state title in this event as a sophomore.
They also have depth that will help in their quest for a league title. Senior Chloe Kryspin and junior Kristina Shayler are top runners in the 100 with junior Catherine Martin in the 200 and sophomore Emily Kelly in the 800. Vanriel runs the 200, 400 and long jump. Smith runs in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
In the field events, Avon has three top-notch high jumpers – Noonan, Alyssa Burton and Sarah deSimas with Heather Bowman and Kayleigh McGrath in the pole vault and Kelly O’Donnell in the discus.
Teams earn two points for every dual meet win in the NCCC and one point for each team they beat the league championship meet, placing a heavy emphasis on dual meets. Avon faces another challenge with Ellington on Wednesday and still has meets left with Granby (May 11). The league championship meet is Tuesday, May 25 at Enfield High.
Last week against Canton and Suffield, Vanriel won three events (200, 400 and long jump) and the Falcons captured the 4×1 and 4×8 relays.
At the Blue Devil Invitational, Kelly held off Montville’s Rachel Skinner for the second year in a row, winning with a sprint in the final 30 meters to win the 800 meters. Martin also won the 200 meters for the second year in row. Burton’s leap of five feet, 12 inches shy of the school record, won the high jump.
Avon also rallied to win the 4×800 relay for the second straight year. Leadoff runner Kalli Veldman was in fifth place about 50 meters back of the leaders when Smith took the handoff. After 600 meters, she moved into second place and handed off to Vanriel, who was still about 30 meters behind. But she caught the leader after about 600 meters and handed off to Kelly, who was able to give Avon a big win.
Vanriel was second in the 400 and Smith was second in the 3,200 meters. Danielle Evans had a personal best to take third in the 1,600 while Bowman took third in the pole vault.
The key for the Avon boys to capturing the league title is winning its dual meets. Granby (May 11) and Ellington loom as big challenge. Granby already handed Canton a loss with an 89-62 decision in April.
Dave Doebler and Ross McDonald are the top sprinters with Tim Buell, Jeff Wang, Jamieson Meserella and Bobbie Davies in the distance events. Rob Carver (javelin), Hunter Cowan (long jump), Issac Davis (shot), McDonald (shot) and Colin Smith (pole vault) are the top field athletes.
Buell took second in the 1,600 at the Blue Devil Invitational with Ethan Buyse third in the 100 meters and Doebler taking fifth. Carver took third in the javelin and the Falcons 4×800 relay team (Davies, Wang, Buell, Meserella) and 4×100 relay team each finished fourth (Zac Cesaro, Buyse, Carver, Doebler).
In the eight-point win over Canton, the Falcons swept the 4×100 and 4×800 relays and received two wins each from Doebler (100, 400) and McDonald (200, shot). The key was pole vaulting where Avon swept the top three spots since Canton doesn’t have any pole vaulters, since they don’t have a track facility.